Photo by Katherine (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Photo by Katherine (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Hmmm, I don’t really know him; we just went to the same high school and later linked up on Facebook. Nevertheless, I second guess: What the hell? Don’t be stingy with greetings, Twanna. Might brighten his day.

  • 9:48am. Twanna writes on Jack Shea‘s timeline …

I don’t realize I’m wishing a dead man H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y-!-! until a friend privately clues me in that he passed away two years ago. It appears he died on his birthday. Seeing my exclamation point-laden greeting among heartfelt condolences from his family makes me feel like I’ve brought ¡¡¡Margaritas!!! to a vigil. [Tiptoes backwards and thinks: “Oh, shit! I feel really awful that I didn’t know. Sorry, everybody.] Memorializing a loved one’s Facebook account is the digital equivalent of cremating, burying, and/or printing obituaries. In the absence of such rituals recognizing the death, how will others know they’re gone? Mashable’s How 1 Billion People Are Coping With Death and Facebook discusses Facebook dead people:

If a dead user’s timeline sits un-memorialized, that profile can appear in Facebook Suggestions, such as the “People You May Know” sidebar on the homepage. Their birthdays reappear year after year in the news feed sidebar, prompting well-wishes from individuals unaware of the death. Read more.

Those who’ve experienced a loved one’s passing know the relationship and its influence on our lives often continue long after they’re gone. Regarding digital rights and responsibilities of — and for — the dearly departed, managing online accounts is a new addition to the list that includes closing credit cards and cleaning out their home. For those who keep accounts active, perhaps Facebook is a place to view photos, write “we miss you” messages, and otherwise cherish the marks they’ve left on their lives. I don’t have anything witty, funny, or further to add about my high school classmate, and I won’t pretend I knew him better than I did. What remains is, over the weekend, I wished a dead man “Happy Birthday!!” on the second anniversary of his death. It was awkward.